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- Chapter 2 -


Number Four Privet Drive hadn’t changed much in the past ten years. It wasn’t dissimilar in appearance to the other houses on the street.  In fact, all of the houses looked remarkably alike. The sun still rose on tidy gardens, although one house now sported several rose bushes and a small tree. Respectable guests still knocked on the door for dinner, carrying wine or flowers. This ritual was now held only once a month, rather than every weekend.

Vernon and Petunia Dursley still lived in the house with their son, Dudley Dursley. Their house was still cluttered with a wide range of photographs; a large, blond boy grinned in most of them. Many years before, the pictures had been of what looked like a pink beach ball adorned with a tuft of blond fluff, different coloured bobble hats in each, surrounded by toys. The Dursley’s wedding pictures still sat on Petunia Dursley’s dressing table in their bedroom. The pictures of them and their friends had now been relegated to the spare room, although those showing them with a Mr. Garth Roberts had now been burned, due to a minor disagreement about their respective political ideas.

Hidden in the kitchen, behind a rather hideous porcelain dog, was a photograph that the Dursleys wished for nobody to see. It was of a pair of young boys, the first with dark, messy hair  and a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, the second with blonde hair, who  was more rotund. The dark-haired boy was smirking, an arm tossed loosely around the blond boy, who seemed to be wincing at this slight contact. It was the only outward sign that two boys lived here; Dudley, and the nefarious Harry Potter.

Mr and Mrs Dursley were at their wits’ end with their nephew. Ever since they had woken up one chilly October morning and found the child in a Moses basket on their doorstep, they had regretted taking him in. The boy had caused them nothing but trouble; he scared their son with his mysterious pranks, he unnerved his teachers with his dark humour, and, somehow, any children at school that offended him seemed to end up getting hurt. Of course, nobody could prove that there was anything wrong with the child, but everybody suspected that something wasn’t quite right.

Vernon and Petunia had tried ignoring Harry, but his behaviour had escalated, forcing them to take notice and punish him. Then they had tried punishing him for every little thing that could be linked to him, but this just caused him to cover his tracks more efficiently. Last year, after a heated debate, they had decided to be nice to him in an attempt to gain his favour. They had tried to talk to him, they fed him nearly as much as Dudley, and even gave him a new pair of shoes, but he disregarded their efforts to show him affection, telling them he knew that it was obviously fake, and he had never really cared for them, either.

One of Harry’s teachers had sent him to a counsellor, hoping that this would somewhat tame him and maybe even make him stop threatening the other children. The fiasco had ended with a sobbing counsellor, a confused teacher, and a small boy snickering to himself. When Vernon Dursley heard about this, he decided that enough was enough. He couldn’t tolerate that menace in his house any longer. The boy would have to be sent away; nothing else could be done. After much deliberation, he and Petunia had decided that there was only one school that could cope with the brat: St Brutus’s Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys.

Whilst Vernon called the school and ensured that Harry would have a place at St Brutus’s, his nephew was once more up to his usual tricks. He was currently hiding in a patch of bushes near the park, waiting for his favourite, and only, cousin to walk by. Harry’s most enjoyable pastime had recently become making Dudley’s life as much of a misery as his aunt and uncle made his own. Consequently, Dudley was now rather scared of Harry and seemed to jump whenever Harry was near.

It would be Dudley’s birthday soon, Harry knew, and Dudley was probably having another big party. Harry couldn’t remember a party for any of his birthdays, but he could remember the events of every single one of Dudley’s. After all, many of them were some of his least favourite memories. At Dudley’s fifth birthday party, Harry had been repeatedly whacked round the shins, and last year, at Dudley’s tenth birthday party, he had been chased up a tree by a particularly vicious dog.

He jerked himself out of his recollections as Dudley waddled past his spot in the bushes. Harry waited until the blond boy was in the shadows directly in front of him before jumping out and grabbing him from behind. Dudley squealed loudly before the arm around his neck jerked sharply into his windpipe.

“Shut up, you overgrown oaf!” Harry hissed menacingly. “I need you to tell me something.” Dudley began to tremble at these words; Harry had never wanted him to do anything good nor had there ever been an opportunity to decline him. Harry didn’t ask, Harry told. “Why did you take that money from your Mum’s purse?”

“But I didn’t!” The words escaped Dudley’s mouth shrilly. “You did!”

“No, Dudders, it was you.” Harry spun the other boy around, and glared into his eyes. “You took that money. Don’t you remember? You bought cakes with it. And some water balloons. You threw them at little kids.” Harry’s voice had taken on a hypnotic tone; it was a well-used tactic, one that worked every time. Harry watched all traces of defiance slip from his cousin’s eyes and felt the boy’s shoulders slump. “You’re going to tell them you took that money.”

“Fine. I’ll tell them.” Dudley sounded dejected; he tore his eyes from Harry’s and shuffled his feet. “I’m sorry I lied.” Harry smirked, and nodded.

Go and tell them. Quickly.” The boy flinched at the venom in Harry’s voice but did as he was ordered. He ran, not knowing or caring why he did so, only understanding that he had to obey his cousin.

Harry grinned at the retreating flab and followed on more slowly. Over the past few years, he had learnt that if he focused hard enough, he could make people do what he wanted. It would have been easier to just use this talent to force everyone to do what he wanted, but it made him feel a bit tired if he did it too much, and it didn’t work as well on some people, like his Aunt and Uncle and old Mrs Figg. And he could only do it on one person at a time; otherwise, he’d lose control of the first.

By the time he reached Privet Drive, he could hear shouting coming from number four. He slipped around the back of the house; he was forbidden from using the front door. As he edged into the kitchen, the shouting grew louder.

“I KNOW IT WASN’T YOU, DUDLEY! I KNOW IT WAS THAT POTTER BRAT! DON’T YOU DARE LIE TO ME.” Uncle Vernon was practically screaming at Dudley. Harry could imagine his face; it’d be purple and blotchy by now. And the vein in his head would be popping out. He couldn’t understand Dudley’s reply. The stupid git was crying.

“DON’T LIE TO ME, SON! YOU’VE NO REASON TO BE SCARED OF HIM! HE’LL BE GONE SOON ENOUGH!” Harry’s head jerked at this. He was leaving? Where was he going? And why didn’t he know anything about it? Harry threw open the kitchen door and stalked into the living room.

“Where will I be going to, Uncle Vernon?” Harry asked, rather politely. He had learnt years ago that showing any anger or emotion towards his uncle would only lead to a beating.


“St Brutus’s,” Harry’s Aunt Petunia cut Vernon off. “It’s an institute for criminal boys, like you.”

“Criminal boys like me, Auntie? I think you’ve got me and Dudders mixed up. He’s the one that’s been stealing, not me.” Harry smirked at his aunt before turning to survey the living room. Uncle Vernon was standing in front of the sofa, his face purple and blotchy as Harry had predicted, but the vein hadn’t yet popped out. Dudley was cowering in front of him. It looked as if Uncle Vernon had pulled his son up then promptly dropped him on the floor. Aunt Petunia was in her favourite chair, next to the gas fire. She had one hand pressed to her forehead, the other wrapped around a glass of sherry.

“Go to your room. This is not up for discussion. You’re going to St Brutus’s, and that’s final.” Aunt Petunia drained her sherry before sinking even further into her chair. “I expect you be up early tomorrow as you’re going to Mrs Figg’s house. We’re taking our law-abiding son to the zoo.”

“You heard her, boy! GO!” Vernon bellowed the last word as he advanced. Harry wisely decided to heed his Uncle’s words and headed to the cupboard under the stairs. It was small, and it was dark, and it was full of spiders, but it was his. None of the Dursleys would ever go into his cupboard; they were probably scared about what they’d find. Harry, a few years ago, had managed to ‘borrow’ a bolt from a neighbour’s shed, so he could now bolt his cupboard shut, effectively locking the Dursleys out.

Harry rummaged at the bottom of his mattress in the dark, finally finding a ratty old pair of pyjama trousers. He quickly changed into them and curled up with his arms under his head. It was Dudley’s birthday tomorrow. He’d be eleven. Harry wanted to go to the zoo with Dudley and Piers more than he would ever admit, but he knew the Dursleys would rather cut their arms and legs off than let him go with them.

When he and Dudley were younger, Dudley had often had the upper hand. He was the oldest, the biggest, and his parents were always on his side. None of that had changed, but Harry had. Harry had taken the time to learn what made Dudley, and the older Dursleys, tick. He knew what they liked, what they hated, and most important of all, he knew what they feared.

Dudley Dursley couldn’t stand snakes or spiders of any kind. He liked to kill any bugs that he found because it made him feel powerful. Petunia Dursley got worked up when things weren’t in their correct places, or when something wasn’t clean. She wouldn’t be able to cope a day without her sherry; it was the only thing that made her feel in control. Vernon Dursley devoted himself to his work. It was his desire to run the company one day and sit around all day in a big office, doing nothing. He was scared of not being in charge. It terrified him to have to do what someone else told him, to not be able to do what he wanted.

And they would all happily die of embarrassment.

Over the years, Harry had been able to use these facts to his advantage. For instance, once he’d let Dudley know that there were spiders in his cupboard; he’d stopped taking Harry’s things from there.

As he settled himself to sleep, he wished fervently that Mrs Figg wouldn’t be able to look after him tomorrow. Maybe she’d have an accident or something and he’d be able to go to the zoo. He’d never been to the zoo before, but he’d read about all of the animals. Harry smiled a little in his sleep, a small dimple appearing on his left cheek.

* * * * *

Harry awoke to the sound of his Aunt Petunia’s shrill voice. It pierced through his skull, and he groggily covered his ears.

“Up! Get up! Now!” she screeched. “I told you to be up early, useless boy!” Harry sat with a start as his aunt rapped on the door. “Up!” Harry heard the clicking of her heels on the wooden floor move towards the kitchen and then the sound of the frying pan being put on the cooker.

With a smirk to himself, he recalled the dream he had been having before his rude awakening. Mrs Figg had been run over by a car. It was mildly satisfying to imagine the batty old woman with a broken leg – although, if she’d died, it would surely have been much more amusing.

Harry stretched out as much as he could in his cupboard then delved into the pile of clothes at the bottom of his mattress for something reasonably decent to wear. A few minutes later, he entered the kitchen in a bottle-green jumper (three sizes too big) and a pair of jeans (which were too long for him) with a hole in the knee.

“Finally!” his aunt hissed. “Look after the bacon, and do some eggs. I want everything perfect on my special boy’s birthday!” she said, the latter with a false enthusiasm that made Harry want to retch.

Instead of throwing up, Harry made his way carefully past the table, which was piled high with Dudley’s birthday presents. It looked like Dudley had gotten the new television he’d wanted, along with the new computer and the pair of skis. It was a mystery to Harry as to why his cousin wanted skis; after all, the Dursleys had never taken him skiing. And it wasn’t as if Dudley ever exercised, except to try to run away from him, which always failed miserably. Harry didn’t look it, but he was fast.

Harry was very thin. The Dursleys accounted this to the small amount of food they gave him, but Harry knew it wasn’t. Late at night, when they were sleeping or when they were out, he’d sneak food from the kitchen. He always kept a store of biscuits and cheese under a floorboard in his cupboard. Once, when he was about six, they’d locked him in his cupboard for two whole days without any food. Harry had thought he was going to die.

Harry watched his aunt carefully as she disappeared from the room, on the pretence of ‘getting her darling angels up’, but in reality was probably a trip to the sherry. Sure enough, a few moments later, he could hear the tinkling of glasses from the sitting room. Knowing that he was alone, he scraped up a couple of pieces of the bacon and hungrily gobbled them down. However, before he had time to eat anymore, his uncle entered the room.

Vernon Dursley was a big, beefy man with a quick temper and a streak of cruelty that had been ingrained in him by his father. Harry visibly shrank as Vernon entered the room, subconsciously hoping not to be noticed. However, unfortunately for Harry, his uncle was in a bad mood. He’d been woken up by his wife’s caterwauling and his son screaming that he wanted food.

As he walked past Harry, he cuffed him in the back of the head and dug at his ribs.

“Where the hell is my breakfast, boy?” He punctuated the last word with a punch to Harry’s side. Harry grunted in pain and tensed, making sure he was still cooking.

“It’s coming, Uncle,” he whimpered. “One more minute, less even!” Apparently satisfied, Vernon sat himself at the far end of the table and hid behind a newspaper. Harry quickly dished up breakfast and hurried to give a plate to his uncle.

He put the other two plates in any space on the table he could find, carefully moving presents to make room. Then, he went back to the cooker and put several slices of bread under the grill, hiding another few pieces under his jumper. He’d eat the bread back in his cupboard or at Mrs Figg’s.

Mrs Figg was a batty old woman who lived two streets away. Her whole house stunk of cabbage and there were always at least five cats in residence. At least Mrs Figg would feed him, though. And he could sit on the sofa there. Once, she’d even let him curl up and take a nap when he’d been having a particularly bad day. But then he’d have to look at a load of pictures of cats and help rewrite recipes, and the day that she’d let him sleep, she’d also made him knit.

Dudley and Harry’s Aunt Petunia entered the room then, disturbing Harry’s inner musings.

“Breakfast’s on the table,” Harry muttered, but neither heard him due to Dudley’s shriek of delight at the mound of presents. He rushed towards them and began to count, grabbing at the food on both plates and stuffing it greedily into his mouth.

“There’s only thirty-six.” His face fell. “I had thirty-seven last year. That’s not fair!” Dudley had begun to wail, but he stopped when he saw Harry. “You took my presents, didn’t you?” He tottered over and punched Harry squarely in the stomach before turning back round to his parents. “I want more presents!”

Luckily for Petunia, the phone rang and she disappeared, leaving Harry curled up on the floor and Vernon attempting to calm his precious son. When she re-entered the room a few minutes later, Harry had managed to crawl to the corner of the kitchen and Vernon had promised Dudley two more presents.

“Bad news, Vernon.” Petunia had a glass of sherry in her hand. Harry checked his battered watch; it read ten past nine. Bit early for her to be drinking in front of people, he thought to himself. She took another sip of sherry to fortify herself.

“Well, spit it out then, woman!” Uncle Vernon snapped, his beady eyes not moving from his newspaper.

“It’s Mrs Figg. She can’t take the boy.” With this, Petunia downed the rest of her glass before digging through a cupboard to produce a bottle of gin.

“Why the bloody hell not?” Petunia seemed unfazed by her husband’s roar of anger, merely taking a slightly larger gulp of gin.

“A car accident. I think it was Mr. Thomas’ eldest son, Derek. Broken her leg.” Petunia seemed indifferent, but Harry was ecstatic. Admittedly, he was a little freaked out that it had happened almost exactly like his dream, but it was brilliant!

“Isn’t there anyone else that can take him?” His uncle sounded a bit desperate to Harry’s ears.

“Like who, Vernon?” His aunt was whining; she always did when she drank. “Just leave him here!”

“I suppose…” Vernon considered it for a minute. “Maybe if we locked him in his cupboard…” Harry grimaced at this. Usually, he didn’t get locked in his cupboard unless he did something wrong, like the time he’d been running away from Dudley’s gang and had then appeared on the school roof. He’d been in the cupboard for a week that time, though they did give him food.

Then again, at least that was one of the times he knew what he’d done wrong. When he was younger, the Dursleys had beaten him every time he mentioned things like wizards and goblins and ghosts in his story books. Or when bad things happened to them, like the time Dudley got detention, or when Uncle Vernon hadn’t gotten the promotion he’d wanted . . . Harry got punished a lot for those.

“Why? Afraid I’ll blow up the house?” Harry asked petulantly. Uncle Vernon wouldn’t hurt him too badly. Aunt Petunia’s friend was visiting tomorrow and she knew he existed, she’d notice… He hoped.

“He’ll have to come with us, Vernon!” Petunia paused to hiccup. “What if he were to get to my china?” Hearing this from his own mother, Dudley began to sob.

“I…I…no…mommy…please…no!” However, before Dudley could really get into his stride, the doorbell went. It was Dudley’s best friend, Piers Polkiss. Immediately, all of the Dursleys quieted. After all, they had to show the rest of the world what a normal, well-adjusted family they were.

* * * * *

And so it was that two hours later, Harry found himself at the zoo. Dudley and Piers had wanted to see all of the big animals, and had both loved the monkeys, so Harry had been forced to follow along with them. However, during the course of the morning, Harry had had his first ever ice lolly.

The Dursleys had been getting the largest possible ice creams for Dudley and Piers and hadn’t managed to spirit Harry away before the saleswoman could ask what he wanted.

“Can I have the biggest, most chocolate-ly ice cream there is, please?” Harry had asked the woman, barely looking at his uncle.

“Sure, honey.” She’d turned to prepare it until Vernon had stepped in.

“Erm, no. He won’t be having that. The boy here is lactose intolerant.” Harry flinched at the force the man had used whilst squeezing his shoulder.

“Can I have the biggest one without milk then?” Vernon had had no response to this, so Harry had gotten a rocket lolly. He didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, really. It was just frozen fruit juice, really.

Finally, by mid-afternoon, the Dursleys had reached the one place that Harry was excited to go to: the reptile house. It was quite dark and cool, as well. Harry wished his cupboard was cool, too; in the summer, it got awfully stuffy and hot. But this room was nice; it was really big, too. Set into the walls were glass cases, most containing boring things like frogs and toads and various types of gecko and iguana.

Dudley and Piers, of course, had headed straight for the biggest, most dangerous snake. Harry stood a little way away, watching to see when they’d get bored. Harry loved snakes. He’d never seen one, but they seemed to be ever so beautiful and majestic.

“Why won’t it move?” Dudley whined. “I want it to move!” Piers banged on the glass a few times before both boys moved to more energetic creatures. Harry, meanwhile, headed for the tank they’d abandoned.

As soon as Harry laid eyes on the snake, he knew that he’d been right. This snake was a beautiful dark green colour and gigantic. It was coiled up, but even as Harry watched, it began to slowly slither to a small pool of water.

“Oh, you’re so beautiful, aren’t you?” Harry mumbled to himself. The snake suddenly paused, and stared straight at him. Its eyes were a warm amber colour. No, Harry thought, her eyes. A second later, he realised how irrational this was. How the hell would he know if the damn snake was a male or female?

“Are you a girlie, then?” He was so busy musing this that he barely noticed the snake’s head bobbing. Almost like she’s nodding.

“Must be horrible, stuck in here.” Again, the snake ‘nodded’. “I bet it’s like my cupboard. Not enough room to breathe, is it really?” The snake shook her head.

Harry frowned. The snake seemed to be communicating with him, but surely that was impossible… Only one way to tell, really.

“Can you understand me?” Nod. “Can you understand everyone?” Shake. “Can you…umm… talk or something?”

“Yesssss!” Harry flinched. That voice, rasping and hoarse, had come from in front of him. He had seen the snake’s mouth open. That voice had been the snake!

“Will you releasssssse me, young massssster?” Harry stared, open mouthed at the snake. “Pleasssssse! I have been ssssssstuck in thissssss place too long!” Harry could hear the longing and wistfulness in the snake’s voice.

“If I did let you go, how would I do it? And what would I get for it?” Harry’s brow furrowed. “I wouldn’t want to get in any trouble; I mean, they’d know it was me.”

“Vanisssssssssh the glass! Make it go away!” Vanish the glass? Make it disappear? He’d done that to some of Dudley’s things before…

“What’s in it for me?” Harry repeated.

“I can bite sssssomeone for the young ssssssir!” Harry considered for a moment, before concentrating on making the glass disappear.

“One of the fat ones,” he whispered, moving away from the tank. He didn’t want to be anywhere near the snake when it bit Vernon or Dudley. As Harry reached the other end of the building, the snake’s head popped out of the tank.

The first person to notice was Aunt Petunia, who’d been hiding near the door.

“Ssss…snake!” She shrieked before running out of the door. Vernon stood in front of Piers and Dudley then pushed Harry in between him and the snake. The other people in the reptile house screamed, and they either headed for the door or the furthest corner from the snake.

The snake was, by this time, fully out of the tank, and she looked up at Harry and seemed to grin before biting the leg of an overweight woman stumbling past. Harry came very close to growling and stamping his foot. The stupid snake had gotten one over on him!

An hour or two later, the Dursleys and Piers’ parents were sitting in the living room; Harry was in the kitchen making tea. Both Dudley and Piers were telling their parents how the snake had tried to kill them (by glaring) and how the keeper had only managed to catch it thanks to their help (by cowering in the corner, and nearly peeing themselves).

“It was so weird, though,” Piers was telling his father. “The glass just disappeared.”

“Yeah, can’t imagine what could’ve happened,” Dudley agreed.

“Maybe your cousin knows; he was right next to the tank before it disappeared.”

Uncle Vernon waited until the Polkiss family had left before laying into Harry.

“WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DID YOU DO, BOY?” he had screamed, and with a firm grip on Harry’s hair, he had dragged him into the kitchen. “I KNOW IT WAS YOU! DON’T YOU DARE LIE TO ME!”

“I…I…wasn’t…didn’t…no…please…no…” Harry’s cries were cut off by Vernon’s fist hitting his stomach, repeatedly.

“TELL ME WHAT YOU DID!” A punch to the face, Harry felt his glasses snap again, and his nose began to spurt blood.

“…didn’t mean…sorry… please… so sorry…” Vernon let go of the dark mass of hair he was holding and the boy dropped to the ground, instinctively curling into a foetal position. Harry looked up at his uncle fearfully, only to see the man removing his belt. “…no…please….not again…stop…please…” Harry’s feeble moans were cut off by the belt hitting his side, hard.

“THIS’LL TEACH YOU, BOY!” The belt hit his back this time, and again, and again, and again, until Harry lost count of how many times he’d been hit.

“..sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry…” Harry chanted, although to whom he was sorry, he didn’t know. After a time, the lashings stopped.

“You bled all over my floor!” A menacing whisper in his ear. His aunt. “Clean it. Then go and stay in your cupboard. Forever.”

Harry scrambled to the cupboard, pulled out a cleaning solution, and began to scrub. His back and ribs were so sore that it hurt him to move, but he didn’t want to risk what his uncle might do if he dared to disobey.

Once the floor was shining again, Harry got to his feet and stumbled to his cupboard, his uncle following. As the door was slammed shut behind him, he heard his uncle scream hoarsely at him.

“I WON’T HAVE THAT SORT OF BEHAVIOUR IN MY HOUSE, YOU FREAK!” Freak. Harry had been called it at school a lot, his baggy clothes and broken glasses setting him apart from the other children. Freak. A teacher had called him one once, when her wig had inexplicably turned blue in a one to one maths lesson. Freak. Petunia had called him one, when a strange man in a top hat had bowed to him in a shop. Freak. This was him. Freak. This was life. Freak. This was Harry Potter.